Zerffi, George Gustavus (DNB00)

ZERFFI, GEORGE GUSTAVUS (1821–1892), writer on history and art, was born in Hungary in 1821. He edited at Pesth the ‘Ungar’ newspaper, and in 1848 served as a captain in the 2nd corps of the revolutionary army. On the failure of the revolution in 1849 he came to England and was naturalised. Some years later he obtained employment in the department of art at South Kensington, and in 1868 was appointed a lecturer. He devoted much attention to the subject of decoration, and published in the ‘Building News’ in 1872–6 ‘Historical Art Studies,’ being his lectures in a revised form. In 1876 he issued a more comprehensive work, entitled ‘A Manual of the Historical Development of Art … with special reference to Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, and Ornament.’ It went through three editions. Prefixed to the preface is a chart illustrating the development of art from the earliest times, and a bibliography is appended to the work. Throughout his life Zerffi also gave much attention to history, which he maintained should be studied as a whole on philosophical principles. In 1879 he published ‘The Science of History,’ a work written for Japanese scholars in accordance with instructions prepared by K. Surgematz of Japan. He planned a general work on somewhat similar principles, entitled ‘Studies in the Science of General History,’ two volumes of which, dealing with ancient and mediæval history respectively, were issued in 1887 and 1889. They were in great part a revision of lectures which he delivered and issued in monthly parts. Zerffi died at Chiswick on 28 Jan. 1892.

Zerffi was for many years a member of the council of the Royal Historical Society, and at one time its chairman, and was also a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He was a man of extensive knowledge and some critical ability. As a lecturer he was popular and effective. He published the following lectures delivered before the Sunday Lecture Society: 1. ‘Natural Phenomena and their Influence on different Religious Systems,’ 1873. 2. ‘Dogma and Science,’ and ‘The Spontaneous Dissolution of Ancient Creeds,’ 1876. 3. ‘Jesuitism and the Priest in Absolution,’ 1878. 4. ‘Long and Short Chronologists, or Egypt from a religious, social, and historical point of view,’ 1878. 5. ‘The Eastern Question from a religious and social point of view,’ 1879. 6. ‘The Irish Question in History,’ 1886. In 1884 he also issued ‘Evolution in History, Language, and Science;’ four Addresses delivered in 1884–5 for the Crystal Palace Company's School of Art, Science, and Literature. Zerffi published an English version of Goethe's ‘Faust,’ with critical and explanatory notes, 1859, 8vo, reissued in 1862; ‘Spiritualism and Animal Magnetism,’ 1871, 3rd edit. 1876 (an attempt to explain spiritualistic phenomena on the principles of Schopenhauer by the theory of animal magnetism); and ‘Immanuel Kant in his relation to Modern History’ (a paper read before the Royal Historical Society), 1875, 8vo.

[Zerffi's works; Times, 30 Jan. 1892; Athenæum, 6 Feb. 1892; Report of Council of Royal Hist. Soc. sess. 1890–1; Building News, 5 Feb. 1892.]

G. Le G. N.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.287
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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